Case #2 - Oakland County Child Killer
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Oakland County Child Killer Transcript
Because this episode is about the killings and sexual assault of young children, this may not be suitable for everyone. Listener and reader's discretion is advised.
From January 1976 - March 1977, seven child murders took place in the metro Detroit area. Three of the murders were solved, the other six, to this day, are still open. Two boys and two girls, all under the age of 13 were confirmed victims of the Oakland County Child Killer. All four were picked up outside of their homes while walking alone around a holiday. The children were held captive for days before the killer or killers would release their dead bodies, somewhere out in the open to be found moments later. Solving this case is a little tricky because at that time, first responders rarely wore gloves. There we so many fingerprints, so there wasn’t much evidence. This ended children walking anywhere alone and started the Helping Hands Program. Families being afraid for children walking alone and being alone, put a picture of and outstretched hand in their windows, hoping to attract children who did not feel safe and needed a safe home to stop at. The child was able to knock on the door and be let in by a good Samaritan looking out for their safety.
Mark Stebbins was a 12 year old boy living in Ferndale, where I was quite a bit as a child, it was the only place I was allowed to spend the night other than with family. My childhood best friend lived in Ferndale, we had so much fun playing with baby dolls and barbies, and thinking we were grown because he mom let us fry our own eggs. Tim was living in Ferndale with his mother Ruth and his 15 year old brother Mike. His parents separated in 1969, Ruth took care of her boys with little help from their father who lived in Houston,Texas. Mark was last seen at the American Legion Hall on 9 Mile on Sunday, February 15, 1976 for his mother’s work party, on a warm winter day. He left walking home, which was about a mile long walk, around noon on his own. That was the last time his mother saw him alive. Warm winter days are rare in Michigan, especially 50 degrees warm, so he only had on a pair of jeans, a light jacket, and a pair of rubber boots. He was a small boy, standing under 5ft with reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. Around 7 that evening, his mother called home from a payphone to check in on him, but didn’t get an answer. When she got home around 9pm and discovered he wasn’t there she called around to Mark’s friends’ homes as well as the neighbors and no one had seen Mark that night. She called the police around 10 and the officer told her there hadn’t been a kidnapping in 10 years and Mark would probably be home soon.
The search for Mark took place the following morning, after Ruth went to the police station and told them Mark still hadn’t returned and his disappearance needed to be taken seriously. His body was found days later on Thursday, February 19th, curled up like he was sleeping by a dumpster outside of an office building in Southfield on 10 Mile and Greenfield. He was found on the Southfield side of Greenfield at 15660 W. 10 Mile Road. On the opposite side of Greenfield, is Oak Park, where I go to get my nails done about twice a month and worked at that Starbucks as my first job for a few months. So when I read that that’s where he was found, it was kind of weird to know it was so close to where I am so often, and only about 10 minutes from where I live and even closer to my job now. The man that discovered Mark’s lifeless body, Mark Boetigherimer, was headed to the drug store at the New Orleans Mall across the street from his office building. If you’ve ever driven down Greenfield, I’m sure you have seen the New Orleans Mall, you can’t miss it. It’s a long tan colored strip mall with bright teal, or some shade of green awning and orange roofing. Boetigherimer got closer for a look to see that Mark Stebbins was not asleep, but dead. He went inside to call police and he and his co-workers returned to look after his body while waiting for police. Tim was covered with a blanket, but it was never said if he was covered by the killer or someone from the office, which caused problems with the investigation. A man, Mark Gallop, was out walking his dog about 9:30am and had not seen Mark’s body. He said that if his body was there at the time, his dog would have sniffed him out.
Mark Stebbins was abducted in Ferndale and dropped off in Southfield which caused a bit of a problem with the investigation. He was taken to the Southfield Police station rather than the Oakland County Coroner's Office, that caused contamination issues from him and his clothing being touched by so many different people. When the area he was found in was investigated by the Michigan State Police, not much came from it. His autopsy took place the following Friday by Dr. Thomas Petinga. He was said to have died from asphyxia caused by smothering. There were also two small blood crusted lacerations on the scalp on the left rear of his head, possibly caused by a shotgun. There was evidence that he had been tied up at his neck, wrists, and ankles.
Mark Stebbins’s funeral took place Monday, February 23, 1976 at the St. James Catholic Church in Ferndale. Ruth could not afford to pay for Mark’s funeral at the moment, but it was fully funded. There was a great turn out, everyone had come to pay their respects. After Mark’s funeral, in the place where his body had been found by Mark Boetigherimer, there was a prayer card from the funeral. The killer or killers could have been at the funeral. Ruth Stebbins may have spoken to or even shaken the hand of or hugged her son's killer and didn't even know it. Maybe it was just someone showing their respects and it just didn't go over well. Mark's case went cold for 10 long months before another murder took place.
Jill Robison was a 12 year old girl from Royal Oak. Jill and her two youngest sisters went back and forth between their mother (Karol) and father’s (Tom) homes after her parents divorce in 1974. In September of 1976 her mother moved from Detroit to Royal Oak for “safer living” and her father lived in Berkley. Rather than the usual one parent gets the kids during the week and the other gets them for the weekend, Jill’s parents split the week. Their dad would pick them up on Thursday. The new Royal Oak home was only two and a half miles from the Stebbins’ home. The move caused 11 year old Jill to have anxiety and nightmares. She dreamed every night about her death, a dream of being shot. She would wake up with a pain in her chest, and in tears. One of her parents had to comfort her to get her back to sleep after each nightmare, each and every night. The family got a counselor for Jill in hopes that it would end the nightmares. After a few sessions and getting used to the home, Jill’s dreams became less frequent and less intense. Jill celebrated her birthday on December 12, a sleepover with all her friends.
Jill’s father, was English professor at Oakland County Community College. Wednesday, December 22nd was the scheduled day of pick up, but he was busy with work and wasn’t able to pick up the girls until Thursday. That Wednesday night, Jill probably being a little upset about not being at her father’s when she was supposed to be, didn’t want to abide by her mother’s rules and chores. Karol told her to set the table for dinner, but Jill didn’t want to, started a small argument between the two. Karol told her to get out, I’m guessing she just meant, get out of her face, get out of the kitchen, go to her room, I can’t imagine her telling her to get out of the house over dishes. Jill went to her room, packed a bag and left to cool down around 5pm on her bike, it was December and only about 30 degrees outside. This was the last time Jill was seen alive by her mother and sisters.
When Karol went to check on Jill in her room a couple hours later she discovered she wasn’t there, she waited around thinking and hoping she would return. Tom let Karol know Jill was not at his home either, so when she never showed up to either home, they called the police. You would think the police would take this call seriously seeing that there was just a missing case months before that didn’t end well because they didn’t take it seriously like they should have. The police told the parents that Jill probably ran away because she was upset about the earlier disagreement with her mother and would turn up eventually. For the first 24 hours of Jill’s disappearance, the police didn’t search, just her parents. The only siting of Jill was by a family friend that night, on her bike, on Woodward Ave and 14 Mile Rd. near the Tiny Tim Hobby Center, headed in the direction of her father’s house around 7pm. The family was extremely upset with the law.
Karol Robison’s birthday was on Christmas Eve and although she was not in the mood to celebrate, she still had two younger daughters to be strong for. Christmas morning wasn’t all that great either, Jill still hadn’t returned home, so after her sisters unwappered their gifts, hers were still there, sitting under the tree. All Karol wanted was to have her daughter back home. Early the next morning someone driving north on 75 in Troy spotted something on the side of the road. He reported his finding over the CB radio and a Troy police officer showed up to the scene to discover Jill Robinson. Jill was lying face up, in the snow, fully dressed with her bag on her back. She had been shot at close range with a shotgun in the face. The blow was so bad she couldn’t be recognized by facial features, however, they did recognize her by her outfit. The same outfit that was described in the police report the night of the 22nd, is what Jill was wearing the morning of the 26th. The blood on the side of the road was evidence that she was shot there and not in a different location and dumped there. Jill Robison had gone missing from Royal Oak and later found in Troy. Lieutenant Earl Ringer of Royal Oak and Sargent George Reed of Troy and their teams worked well together to try to solve Jill’s kidnapping and murder mystery.
Jill’s autopsy was performed by Dr. Robert F. Sillery, chief pathologist for the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office. It stated that she died from shock and hemorrhage from a shotgun wound of the head and that there were no signs of sexual molestation. The police know what kind of shotgun was used and what size. It is a common and easy to buy in multiple local gun and hardware stores. She had been the only child to be shot by the OCCK, maybe she told him about her nightmares. Jill had been taken care of during her abduction and captivity. Her clothes were not destroyed as if she had been outside her entire disappearance and she was fed. Jill's bike was found by a neighborhood boy on the afternoon of December 27 behind the Valenti and Lieberman offices on N. Main Street in Royal Oak, in the opposite direction of where she was seen. Children in the area admitted that a few of them had taken turns riding on the lost bike. Even though it was in the area Jill probably wouldn’t have been riding on her own, it was probably dropped off there by the killer and just moved around by local children. There was no hope of getting the killer’s finger prints off of the bike because it was handled by so many people. Jill Robinson’s family held a small intimate funeral for the 12 year old little girl at the First Prespiterian Church of Royal Oak. Jill remains we cremated soon after the funeral.
Kristine Mihelich was a 10 year old girl who lived in Berkley. Kristine was a small girl, she was a little under four feet tall, only 80lbs, with shoulder length brown hair and big blue eyes. She lived with her mother Deborah Ascroft , two younger brothers, 6 and 8, and a younger sister, 4. Deborah made it known that her and Kristine had a great relationship and that Kristine was a wonderful child. On January 2, 1977, Kristine begged her mother to let her walk to the 7/11, the 7/11 that was just two and a half miles from where Jill Robinson was found killed just a week the the day prior, alone to get a magazine. She explained to Kristine the safest way to get there and told how to wait for the light, at the busy road, 12 Mile and I told her to hurry. Kristine had made it to the store safely, buying candy, pop, and the magazine she had gone for, but had not returned home. After a couple of hours her mother retraced Kristine’s steps to the store. The cashier confirmed her arrival and purchase and said she had left and hour or two ago headed in the direction of her home. Deborah went home and made a police report. Unlike the police did for both Mark Stebbins and Jill Robinson, the Berkley police instantly started a search for the 10 year old. Every house and business open that Sunday evening were visited but the police. She was abducted on her way home, they figured if the same person that taken Jill had taken Kristine, but why was it taking so long for her to return or for her body to be discovered. She had been held hostage by her abductor for 19 days.
Around 11:45am, while U.S. Postal Service mailman, Jerome Wozny was delivering mail on the dead in street, Bruce Lane, west of Telegraph Road in Franklin Village, he spotted something in the snow-filled ditch on the side of the road. Wozny stopped his mail truck, backed up, got out, and realized he had found a body. He got back in his truck, and drove immediately to the Franklin Village Police Department to report what he had seen.
Kristine had been found in her clothes that she had on on January 2. The only difference was her mother said the white top that she had on was always tied up in the back, not the front, and she never tucked her pants in her boots like they were when her body was found. Her clothes were clean enough to know that she had not been outside for 19 days. Her body was almost frozen all the way through and had been exposed in the snow for less than 24 hours. Just like Jill, Dr. Sillery had also performed the autopsy on Kristine. Sillery was later fired due to some questionable autopsy results, for not just Kristine, but a few others over his 10 years of work. I was able to find the statement from the autopsy report online and he’s what it said, “The cause of death was asphyxia caused by smothering. Also, the body was not frozen through, it had been exposed in the snow for less than 24 hours, in all probability. There was no gross evidence of sexual molestation or penetration in either vagina or anus, yet Dr. Sillery told a startled group of state crime lab technicians he had found sperm in both vagina and rectum. He could not account for how they had gotten there, despite some unique theories about the forcefulness of ejaclllation. The fact that another pathologist and two State Police laboratory technicians were subsequently unable to detect sperm in the tissue slides he prepared perhaps explains things adequately--there were no sperm, and Kristine, like Jill, had not been violated.” Evidence was collected from Kristine’s body. They collected her underwear with an black fiber on them, nail scraping, two hairs from inside her mouth, and hairs and fibers from her clothes. Nothing ever really come from these forms of evidence.
The fourth and final confirmed victim of the OCCK ,Timothy King was an 11 years old, who lived in Birmingham with his father Barry, mother Marion, two older brothers and one older sister. Tim was to be left home alone, since everyone in his home had plans. Tim's parents had gone out dining with a client of his dad's law firm. They trusted that Tim could stay by himself since they weren't going far, and they weren't going to be away for long. At about 7:30 that night he borrowed 30 cents from his sister right before she was about to leave, and told her to leave the front door unlocked for him. He left home with his skateboard to go buy his candy at a drugstore on a few blocks away on Maple Road. At about 8:30pm he left the store at the rear entrance that opened to a parking lot shared with a supermarket. While he was in the parking lot of the drugstore two witnesses saw him get approached by a man with long shaggy dark hair and sideburns. The man was standing near what one witness said was a blue Gremlin with a white racing stripe on the side. No one had seen Tim getting into the car, no one had seen Tim being taken, all they saw was him talking to the man next to the blue Gremlin. This was the last time Tim was seen alive.
Tim’s parents returned home at 9pm to only one child back home, when Tim should have been there too, he should have been back home an hour an hour ago. Tim being a responsible kid, they didn’t think he would be out that late on a school night on his own. It was not yet confirmed that Tim had been taken by the OCCK, but Oakland County Police started searching right away, wasting no time. A legal document was created to show drivers requesting to search their cars for Tim, saying that if they found anything like drugs or weapons, they wouldn't arrest them. They were just that desperate to get Tim back to his family alive. Everyone complied, but nothing came from this search, they didn’t find Tim or his kidnapper.
Barry King went on TV talking to TIm, letting him know he was loved and being looked for and begging the abductor to release his son unharmed. Marion King wrote an open letter to the killer on the front page of the Detroit News asking the abductor to send Tim home so she could serve him his favorite meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken. On March 22 at 11:15pm, Livonia, Michigan, Police Department sent a car in response to a call from witnesses who had discovered a body lying in a ditch on the west side of Gill Street, 300ft south of Eight Mile Road. Timothy King had been found, and near his body was his orange skateboard. Tim’s body was still warm so first responders tried to revive him, but it was too late.
Dr. Werner Spitz prepared Tim’s autopsy and listed smothering as his cause of death. Tim had been dead for six to eight hours and had been placed along Gill Road about three hours before he was found. The autopsy report showed that he had eaten a meal of fowl, assumed to be the KFC his mother wanted him to have, about an hour before he was killed. His wrists showed signs of binding, but his body was very clean like he had been taken care of during his captivity. He had been sexually assaulted, the anal region showed obvious signs of of abuse.
Besides the four confirmed victims of the OCCK, there were a few others that were abducted around the same time, but not by the OCCK. Donna Serra was a 16 year old girl from Ray Township, in Macomb County. She was about 5'3" and about 110 lbs.She resembled a victim we discussed earlier, Jill Robinson. Donna left school around 1:00 pm on Friday September 29, 1972 at South Lake High School. It was said that she was leaving school early that day and decided to catch a ride to go to the beach. Hitchhiking in the 1970's was very common, especially for teens trying to get around. On that day, she must have been picked up by the wrong person, someone not so nice. It'd seem she disappeared without a trace.
Donna Serra was held captive for several days. Her body did not reappear until October 20, 1972, along the side of a road in Ray Township. Police were extremely confused and the crime went unsolved. The police just came up with the theory that Donna’s killer and kidnapper has enlisted in the military after her murder.
A few years after Donna’s murder, on Thusday, January 15, 1976, in Roseville, Cynthia Cadieux a 16 year old girl did not return home from a friend’s house. Her parents assumed she was spending the night, but that’s not what happened. Cynthia’s friend said she had left the same day to go home, but she never made it. Her parents filed a missing person’s report the next morning after she did not return home. Very early the next day she was found in the snow, raped, sodomized, and beaten to death. Her naked body was laid out on a road in Franklin, in Oakland County. After hearing about a young girl’s body being found on the side of the road on the news, her parents called and to say that may have been their daughter, and it was. Her corpse had been dragged over the snow-covered pavement, and her clothes placed a few feet from her body. On May 4, 1979 a man named Bobby Anglin was eventually convicted of Cynthia Cadieux’s murder and is serving a life sentence in Maskegon Correctional Felicity.
On Tuesday, January 20,1976, five days after the murder of Cynthia, Sheila Shrock was babysitting in Birmingham. An intruder broke into the house, while on a crime spree on the neighborhood, breaking into random homes. The man raped, sodomized, and shot her to death. This all was going on as the police were going door to door looking for the serial intruder. Her killer slipped out of the home while no one was looking and joined the crowd of concerned neighbors outside the homes. Just like the last murder this one would also be attributed later on to the Oakland County Child Killer. This one was solved, a man named Oliver Rhodes Andrews was convicted and confessed to the murder.
Jane Allan was a 14yr old who lived in Royal Oak with her parents and five older siblings. She was 5’3 and 110lbs, with long wavy hair. Although she was only 14, she looked a few years older, maybe about 17 or 18. Jane was planning to spend the day at her boyfriend Tony’s new home in Auburn Heights, about 20 miles from hers. She wrote down directions to Tony’s house and went on about her day. She made it there successfully and spent the day with him. When it was time to go home Tony’s mother offered her a ride, but she opted out to walk instead. Jane was last seen on University and I-75 trying to catch a ride home, she was believed to have been picked up around 4:30.
Jane’s father reported her missing to the Royal Oak Police Sunday morning, but because Jane was a known runaway, her report was not taken seriously right away. By the time her information was out out to the world, it was too late.Jane was murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was found floating in a river in Miamisburg, Ohio, on August 11.
Kimberly Alice King was a 12 year old girl, spent the night of September 15, 1979 at her friend’s house who lived across the street from her grandparents in Warren. At 11:00pm, she called her sister telling her she had snuck out of her friend's house and was calling from a phone booth nearby. Her sister told her to go back inside, but Kimberly never returned and has never been heard from again. Her case was originally classified as a possible runaway, although she had never run away before. David Norberg was considered a suspect in her case. He worked in Warren at the time of Kimberly's disappearance and lived two streets away from her house. He was killed in a car accident in Wyoming in 1981. We’ll get more into him later.
During the investigation of the child killings, mainly in Timothy King’s case , there was a constant mention of the blue Gremlin with the white hockey stripe. If you Google search OCCK, this car will pop up somewhere in the results, but this car had absolutely nothing to do with the child killer. A witness stated that she saw Tim talking to a man standing next to a blue Gremlin, they were standing near, but the car did not belong to the abductor. It came out later that the car belonged to a lady that was in the nearby apartments, she could not come out and say it during the original investigation because she was not supposed to be there. She was having an affair with someone in the apartments who was also married. The blue Gremlin had nothing at all to do with the case. The car they should have been looking for was a 1973 Pontiac LeMans, 2-door coupe that was either blue or green. One witness, Doug Wilson said he saw one parked in the same supermarket parking lot Tim King was on the night of March 16th. Another witness saw a blue Pontiac LeMans parked along I-75 in Troy a few hours before Jill Robinson’s body was discovered just north of the 16 Mile Rd./Big Beaver exit on the early morning of December 26th.
There were quite a few suspects of the OCCK. Investigators working on the case put together a profile of the killer based on witnesses' descriptions of the man seen talking to Timothy, that was all that had to go by. It was a white male with a dark complexion, 25 to 35 years old with shaggy hair and sideburns. They believed that he had a job that gave him freedom of movement and may have appeared to be someone that a child can trust. He was also believed to be familiar with the area and had the ability to keep children for long periods of time without neighbors being suspicions.